Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in education but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Nicole Andrea Porcaro, Founder of No Anxiety Prep, located in Washington, D.C., USA
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Launched in 2012, No Anxiety Prep focuses on independent, personalized educational consulting for secondary school admissions, college admissions, and graduate school admissions. We provide services including test preparation, application essay assistance, academic paper editing, interview skills critique, resume revamps, school selection, course planning, and more. We pride ourselves on providing the most personalized and stress-free experience available, essentially serving as a "one-stop-shop" for our clients, who typically range in age from 12-50. Our small-company feel and international experience prioritizes excellent service with none of the big-company bureaucratic headaches, and we have helped thousands of students in 15 states and seven countries attain admission to some of the top high schools and colleges in the country and the world. All of our employees are certified in the 95th percentile or above in their test area, as well as pass a rigorous selection and training program focusing on learning styles, learning differences, and collaborative pedagogy. We believe education should be personalized, engaging, and purpose-based!
Tell us about yourself
After leaving a career in journalism and starting out as a part-time employee for a major big-box test prep company, I never dreamed it would go further than teaching a few night classes. However, I spent five years with that company performing a variety of responsibilities, including teaching and tutoring for the SAT, ACT, SAT II Subject Tests, AP tests, SSAT, and ISEE, assisting regional managers in faculty development endeavors, creating and leading training, making sales, running marketing events and training new faculty. I led the region in garnering tutoring referrals for two years, bringing in $25,000 of tutoring sales alone in one month, two separate times. Because of my tutoring success, I was selected as the company's 2009 Tutor of the Year. In 2011, I was named to a national-level training creation group to develop a curriculum at the corporate level. Coming from a journalism background has helped me immensely in that my communication and work-on-a-deadline skills are top-notch.
I love the teaching aspect of what I do. It was imperative that even as the company grew and my more typical roles as president increased that I was still "in the classroom." In addition to running the company, I am still tutoring between 20-50 hours per week, depending on the season, because I truly love working with students. I also love to train new tutors in the No Anxiety Prep strategies. Watching my staff grow as educators is rewarding and inspiring. I, too, have learned and continue to learn so much as No Anxiety Prep expands. For instance, learning the PR and social media side of the business are our QI and QII goals, and of course, we are also growing our charitable arm year to year. Getting that text message from a student that they got into Columbia (or whatever their dream school was!) or that email that proclaims, "I got 1500 on my SATs!"....well, there's nothing like that feeling of knowing you played a role in that!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
We are the proud three-time winners of WASHINGTON FAMILY MAGAZINE'S "Best Of" contest:
- Best SAT/ACT Prep, 2020 and 2021
- Best Overall Tutoring Program, 2021
I'm also proud of the fact that I started No Anxiety Prep by myself (I am Nicole Andrea Porcaro or the NAP in NAP!) and have turned a six-figure profit in each of the 11 years of our existence. Female-owned small businesses are the future!
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
For me, it's wearing so many hats. Some days, I am a teacher, tutor, curriculum writer, administrative assistant, business developer, CFO, troubleshooter, coach, mentor, saleswoman, and fire-putter-outer... it's exhausting! While I have an excellent staff under me, ultimately, running a business comes down to the owner. The buck stops here. Knowing how to prioritize your time and set boundaries are ever-evolving goals of mine and probably will be for the duration of my time at No Anxiety Prep.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Ensure you have a true passion, not just a like or appreciation, for your business focus.
- Ensure you put in place structures to help you set up. For example, find an excellent CPA, lawyer, bookkeeper, POS system, etc., at the outset, even if it's expensive because fixing mistakes later can cost a lot more time and money.
- Get everything in writing. Between you and clients, you and staff, you and partners, you and friends. The old statement "trust but verify" comes to mind. Don't skimp on writing ironclad agreements and contracts- you'll thank me later!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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